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The Prison-Industrial Complex. Social Policy and Correctional Health Care Martin Donohoe.

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the prison industrial complex

The Prison-Industrial Complex

Social Policy and Correctional Health Care

Martin Donohoe

“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of any country. A calm, dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused and even of the convicted criminal, ... [and] the treatment of crime and the criminal mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue within it.”

Winston Churchill

lockdown us incarceration rates
Lockdown:US Incarceration Rates
  • World prison population 8.75 million
  • US: 6.5 million under correctional supervision (behind bars, on parole, or on probation) - 1/32 adults
    • 2 million behind bars (jail + prison)
      • 1.25 million in jail; 0.75 million in prison
      • Includes 180,000 women
lockdown us incarceration rates1
Lockdown:US Incarceration Rates
  • 6-fold increase in # of people behind bars from 1972-2000
    • And rising
  • # of women behind bars up 750% from 1980
lockdown us incarceration rates and costs
Lockdown:US Incarceration Rates and Costs
  • US incarceration rate highest in world
    • Russia close second
    • 6X > Britain, Canada, France
  • Costs: $30,000/yr for prison spot; $70,000/yr for jail spot
race and detention rates
Race and Detention Rates
  • African-Americans: 1815/100,000
    • More black men behind bars than in college
  • Latino-Americans: 609/100,000
  • Caucasian-Americans: 235/100,000
  • Asian-Americans: 99/100,000
jail and prison overcrowding
Jail and Prison Overcrowding
  • 22 states and federal prison system at 100%+ capacity in 2000
  • 1/11 prisoners serving life sentence
    • ¼ of these without possibility of parole
reasons for overcrowding
Reasons for Overcrowding
  • “War on Drugs”
  • Mandatory Minimums
  • Repeat Offender laws
  • Truth in Sentencing regulations
  • Decreased judicial independence
corporate crime silent but deadly
Corporate Crime:Silent but Deadly
  • $200 billion/yr. (vs. $4 billion for burglary and robbery)
  • Fines for corporate environmental and social abuses minimal/cost of doing business
  • Some corporations linked to human rights abuses in US and abroad
  • Most lobby Congress to weaken environmental and occupational health and safety laws
corporate crime
Corporate Crime
  • “The [only] social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”

Milton Friedman

  • “Corporations [have] no moral conscience. [They] are designed by law, to be concerned only for their stockholders, and not, say, what are sometimes called their stakeholders, like the community or the work force…”

Noam Chomsky

corporate crime1
Corporate Crime
  • “Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

Ambrose Bierce

  • “A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.”

Howard Scott

the prison industrial complex1
The Prison-Industrial Complex
  • Private prisons currently hold just under 10% of US prisoners
  • Private prison boom over past 15 years
    • Reasons:
      • Prevailing political philosophy which disparages the effectiveness of (and even need for) government social programs
      • Often-illusory promises of free-market effectiveness
        • Despite evidence to contrary (e.g., Medicare/Medicaid, water privatization, etc.)
the prison industrial complex2
The Prison-Industrial Complex
  • Leading trade group: American Correctional Association
  • For-profit companies involved:
    • Corrections Corporation of America
    • GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut)
    • Correctional Medical Services
    • Others (Westinghouse, AT&T, Sprint, MCI, Smith Barney, American Express, and GE)
the prison industrial complex3
The Prison-Industrial Complex
  • Aggressive marketing to state and local governments
    • Promise jobs, new income
  • Rural areas targeted
    • Face declines in farming, manufacturing, logging, and mining
  • Companies offered tax breaks, subsidies, and infrastructure assistance
the prison industrial complex 2001 bureau of justice study
The Prison-Industrial Complex:2001 Bureau of Justice Study
  • Average savings to community 1%
  • Does not take into account:
    • Hidden monetary subsidies
    • Private prisons selecting least costly inmates
      • c.f., “cherry picking” by health insurers
    • Private prisons attract large national chain stores like Wal-Mart, which:
      • leads to demise of local businesses
      • Shifts locally-generated tax revenues to distant corporate coffers
the prison industrial complex politically well connected
The Prison-Industrial Complex:Politically Well-Connected
  • Private prison industry donated $1.2 million to 830 candidates in 2000 elections
    • $100,000 from CCA to indicted former House Speaker Tom Delay’s (R-TX) Foundation for Kids
    • Delay’s brother Randy lobbied TX Bureau of Prisons on behalf of GEO
jails for jesus faith based initiatives
Jails for Jesus:Faith-Based Initiatives
  • Increasing presence
  • Politically powerful
  • Most evangelical Christian
  • Supported financially by George W Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives Program
    • e.g., Prison Fellowship Ministries – founded by Watergate felon Charles Colson in 1976
jails for jesus faith based initiatives1
Jails for Jesus:Faith-Based Initiatives
  • Offer perks in exchange for participation in prayer groups and courses
    • Perks: better cell location, job training and post-release job placement
    • Courses: Creationism, “Intelligent Design”, “Conversion Therapy” for homosexuals
jails for jesus faith based initiatives2
Jails for Jesus:Faith-Based Initiatives
  • Some programs “cure” sex offenders through prayer and Bible study
    • Rather than evidence-based programs employing aversion therapy and normative counseling
  • Highly recidivist and dangerous criminals may be released back into society armed with little more than polemics about sin
health issues of prisoners
Health Issues of Prisoners
  • At least 1/3 of state and ¼ of federal inmates have a physical impairment or mental condition
    • Mental illness
    • Dental caries and periodontal disease
    • Infectious diseases: HIV, Hep B and C, STDs (including HPV→cervical CA)
    • Usual chronic illnesses seen in aging population
crime and substance abuse
Crime and Substance Abuse
  • 52% of state and 34% of federal inmates under influence of alcohol or other drugs at time of offenses
  • Rates of alcohol and opiate dependency among arrestees at least 12% and 4%, respectively
    • 28% of jails detoxify arrestees
inmate deaths
Inmate Deaths
  • 12,129 inmates died in custody between 2001 and 2004
    • 89% - medical conditions
    • 8% - suicide or homicide
    • 3% - alcohol/drug intoxication or accidental injury
prison health care
Prison Health Care
  • Estelle v. Gamble (US Supreme Court, 1976): affirms inmates constitutional right to medical care (based on 8th Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment)
  • Amnesty International and AMA have commented upon poor overall quality of care
prison health care1
Prison Health Care
  • 60% provided by government entities
  • 40% (in 34 states) provided by private corporations
  • Private care often substandard
prison health care2
Prison Health Care
  • Some doctors unable to practice elsewhere have limited licenses to work in prisons
  • Some government and private institutions require co-pays
    • Discourages needed care; increases costs
examples of substandard prison health care
Examples of Substandard Prison Health Care
  • Correctional Medical Systems (largest/cheapest)
    • Numerous lawsuits/investigations for poor care, negligence, patient dumping; opaque accounting of taxpayer dollars
  • Prison Health Services
    • Cited by NY state for negligence/deaths; subject of >1000 lawsuits
examples of substandard prison health care1
Examples of Substandard Prison Health Care
  • California’s state prison health care system placed into receivership
    • 1 unnecessary death/day
    • $5 co-pays limit access
rehabilitation and release
Rehabilitation and Release
  • 600,000 prisoners released each year
    • 4-fold increase over 1980
  • 1990s: funding for rehab dramatically cut
  • Newly released and paroled convicts face restricted access to federally-subsidized housing, welfare, and health care
ex offenders have poor job prospects
Ex-offenders have poor job prospects
  • Little education and job skills training occur behind bars
    • GED programs reduce recidivism, decrease costs
  • Limited resumés, background checks
  • 60% of employers would not knowingly hire an ex-offender
  • High rates of criminal recidivism
  • US world’s wealthiest nation
  • Incarcerates greater percentage of its citizens than any other country
  • Criminal justice system marred by racism
  • Prisoner health care substandard
  • Until recently, US executed juveniles and mentally handicapped
  • US continues to execute adults
  • Drug users confined with more hardened criminals in overcrowded institutions
    • Creates ideal conditions for nurturing and mentoring of more dangerous criminals
  • Punishment prioritized over rehabilitation
  • Convicts released without necessary skills to maintain abstinence and with few job skills
  • Poor financial and employment prospects of released criminals make return to crime an attractive or desperate survival option
  • US criminal justice system marked by injustices, fails to lower crime and increase public safety
  • Significant portions of system turned over to enterprises that value profit over human dignity, development and community improvement
role of health professionals in creating a fair criminal justice system
Role of Health Professionals in Creating a Fair Criminal Justice System
  • Address social ills that foster substance abuse and other crimes
    • Especially rising gap between rich and poor, haves and have nots
  • Increase focus on magnitude and consequences of corporate crime
role of health professionals in creating a fair criminal justice system1
Role of Health Professionals in Creating a Fair Criminal Justice System
  • Speak out against injustice, racism, death penalty
  • Improve provider education re criminal justice system
  • Run for office
  • Hold government accountable for creating fair system that combines reasonable punishment with restitution and smooth re-entry of rehabilitated criminals into society
prison health care3
Prison Health Care
  • “A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

  • Donohoe MT. Incarceration Nation: Health and Welfare in the Prison System in the United States. Medscape Ob/Gyn and Women’s Health 2006;11(1): posted 1/20/06. Available at
contact information
Contact Information

Public Health and Social Justice Website